CL Grant has authored many relationship books, including "30 Day No Contact Rule," "The Reality of Being the Other Woman," and "Ex Addict."
Obsessive Love Disorder
One of the greatest barriers to moving on after a breakup is that you simply can't stop thinking about your ex. Constantly 'living in the past,' you are simply unable to achieve any closure from your former relationship. You are consumed with an uncontrollable desire to text, call, or even stalk your ex. Even though you know that your behavior is irrational, and that what you're doing is making you ill, still you can't stop yourself.
No matter where you are, or what you are doing, you are constantly thinking and obsessing about your ex. Every time the phone rings, your heart races. Could this finally be the call that you've been longing for—your ex calling to say that they've made a huge mistake and want to make amends?
You're constantly logging on to their Facebook page, waiting for their latest update. Who have they recently befriended? Where have they been and what have they been doing? You're scrutinizing every post, looking for some hidden meaning in their messages. You may even analyse the lyrics of videos posted, to ascertain how your ex is feeling and if they're trying to tell you that they made a mistake and are suffering as much as you are.
If this sounds like you, then you could be experiencing obsessive love disorder, also known as love addiction.
Getting Over a Breakup
If you have recently been through a breakup, then you may have been following the advice in my breakup survival guide, No Contact Rule After Breakup. Time-after-time, one of the biggest mistakes that people make, when they begin no contact, is that they do so with the primary intention of reconciling with their ex. This then becomes the sole focus of their attention. Following a breakup, emotional detachment is definitely far harder to achieve than implementing the practical steps needed, in order to move forward with your life. Consequently, the biggest hurdle that you will face, and ultimately must overcome, is to be able to stop thinking about your ex.
What Is Love Addiction?
Love addition can best be defined as a compulsive, obsessive and intense longing for someone, even when that person may be harmful or toxic to you. Your need is so over-powering that you build up a tolerance to the toxicity of the relationship. Being separated from that person causes intense suffering and withdrawal symptoms. Your cravings are so intoxicating that you are prepared to sacrifice everything, even if that means self-destruction.
In his book Love and Addiction, psychologist Stanton Peele says that being in love has just as much to do with addiction, as substance abuse does. He believes that love addiction is probably the most common, but least recognized, type of addiction.
This is hardly surprising given the tide of feel-good chemicals that are released when we fall in love. MRI scans have been used to demonstrate that both intense love and habit-forming narcotics, cause the same part of the brain to be activated. This region of the brain also happens to be connected to obsessive-compulsive disorders. In other words, you start to crave the person you desire, in the same way as you would any other type of addictive material. Over a period of time, most people will recover from this. Others, however, become dangerously obsessive and delusional.
Additionally, the frontal cortex of the brain, which plays a crucial role in your judgment, is switched off when you fall in love. This is often why you tend to reject the well-meaning advice of friends and family when discussing your romantic relationships.
What Causes Obsessive Love Disorder?
There are several differing theories as to why some people are more predisposed to obsessive love disorder, or love addiction, than others. These range from genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain, being raised in a dysfunctional environment to experiencing abuse in childhood. Love addicts tend to be emotionally immature, insecure, and suffer from low self-esteem. They tend to be overcome by feelings of powerlessness, jealousy, and paranoia.
Whatever the reasons, love addicts are driven to form unhealthy, compulsive, and self-destructive romantic relationships. They repeatedly form relationships with unavailable, abusive, narcissistic, or toxic partners.
Obsessive love disorder becomes especially fraught when feelings of love are rejected or unrequited. At this stage, a relatively normal obsession can change into an unhealthy one. There is a very fine line between what is classed as obsessive, but relatively harmless behavior and that which strays into the realms of unlawfulness.
How to Stop Thinking About Someone
There are several steps that you can take to help you stop thinking about your ex, or anyone else about whom, and you may be experiencing unhealthy or obsessive thoughts. This isn't easy, and it is highly improbable that you will achieve your desired outcome. Nonetheless, it will help you on your journey to recovery.
Please note that you need to be true to yourself. If you are unable to answer the following questions honestly, then you would probably benefit from seeing a counselor. So, ask yourself the following and commit your answers to paper.
1. What Is Motivating You?
What is it that you truly hope to achieve with your behavior? What do you want from the object of your desire? Why are you so emotionally dependent upon them? Why do you think that you are happier when you are with them? Are you longing for reciprocation of your love? If so, why?
2. How Realistic Are You?
Now that you have established your objectives, on a scale of 1 to 10, how optimistic are you, that you will achieve your goals? Are they realistic? What will happen if you don't achieve the outcome that you want?
3. Why This Person?
There are over 7 billion people living on this planet. What is so special about this one person? Why are you devoting so much of your time and energy to them? Do you have them on a pedestal? Do you ignore and over-compensate for their failings? Do you make excuses for their behavior?
4. Acknowledge Your Thoughts
It is a commonly help misconception that you should try to suppress unwanted thoughts. However, this hinders recovery. You need to acknowledge your thoughts, and when they occur, and then replace them with different, more positive thoughts and images.
5. Remove All Reminders
This sounds pretty obvious, but you need to remove every last reminder of your ex. Destroy them, sell them, or donate them to charity. Just get rid! Also, if you have any of your ex's belongings, then return them via courier. Do not be tempted to hand deliver them or, worse still, contact your ex asking if they would like to come around and collect them.
6. Unfriend and Unfollow
Some may say that this churlish and unnecessary. However, if you are obsessively thinking about your ex, or anyone else for that matter, then you do need to unfriend and unfollow them on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
These sites open up the flood gates for digital stalking. Don't do it!
7. Refrain From Alcohol
I'm sure we've all heard of drunk texting. Inhibitions are lowered following alcohol consumption, melancholy increases, and common sense goes out of the window! Also, as alcohol is a depressant, it actually increases anxiety and stress. Hence, in the long term, it will inevitably make you feel worse and not better. So, ensure that you abstain from alcohol, whilst you are feeling in a fragile state of mind.
8. Follow the No Contact Rule
One of the best ways to move forward with your life is simply not to have any contact with your ex, whatsoever. This also includes not responding to any form of communication from your ex, unless the welfare of your children are involved.
9. Keep Your Mind Active
Write a list of all of the activities that you enjoy. Write a list of all of the family and friends that you like spending time with. Write a bucket list of all of the things that you would like to achieve in the next year. Visualize, and commit to paper, what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Make sure you include your professional ambitions, as well as your personal ones.
Armed with this information, write a plan as to how you are going to achieve these objectives. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there? Think in terms of 'baby steps' when planning the way forward.
10. Keep Your Diary Full
Get yourself out there and keep yourself busy! If you don't have a job, then do some volunteering work. Helping those who are less fortunate than yourself, is often a great way to put your life into perspective. Make those plans to catch up with your family and friends. De-clutter any part of your home that needs it. Go and get some exercise, A long walk, in the fresh air, is great for lifting your spirits and making you feel good. Work on improving yourself and your life. Make sure you enter all of these commitments into your diary and stick to them!
Recovering From Love Addiction
The most important thing to remember is that you are a truly wonderful person who deserves every happiness in life. Every pot has a lid, and there is someone out there just waiting to meet you. Whenever you feel like doing something irrational, such as calling your ex, just leave it for a couple of hours. The feeling will eventually pass.
Finally, ask yourself how much of this will matter in five or ten years' time? We're all getting older, and none of us know when our expiry date will descend upon us. So, make the most of every day and, every morning, be thankful for all the good and positive things that are presently in your life.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am 60 years old and cannot come to terms with breaking up with my ex boyfriend. I feel I will never love again. I love so many things about him and can’t stop thinking about how much I miss him. Our relationship was an unusual one, but I feel I’ll never find someone as interesting and captivating. I’m obsessed with keeping our love alive in my mind by not accepting our breakup. Am I addicted, obsessed, or normal?
Answer: You don’t say how long ago you and your ex split up. In the early stages of a breakup, it is perfectly normal to feel an array of emotions. Most people will gradually come to terms with what has happened. Addiction begins when you are unable or unwilling to let go. This is not a healthy state of mind and you appear to be on the verge of this, by saying that you are obsessed with keeping your love alive.
It is vital you recognize that you are the only person who is responsible for your happiness. Don’t waste any more time dwelling on the past. You need to move forward. Have a read of my article on the powerful benefits of the no contact rule. You may find it of some benefit to help you pull through this challenging time.
Question: I like my married boss, how do I stop thinking about him?
Answer: Firstly, by remembering that he is unavailable. Secondly, by looking for a new job or asking for a transfer.
Remember, married men rarely leave their wives. Do you really want to be second best? Don't you believe that you deserve to be treated better than a dirty little secret?
Stop daydreaming and looking at him through rose tinted glasses. Set some ambitious work-related goals that will keep you busy and minimize your contact with your boss.
© 2014 C L Grant
Chris on November 26, 2019:
Married 22 years. 2 weeks ago I had the police knock on my door to say they’d had a phone call from the Samaritans to say my husband was wanting to commit suicide. To cut a long story short they found him and took him to a mental health facility. 3 hours later they let him out. During a phone conversation with my husband he told me he’d had an affairs 4 years ago. When he came home we discussed the affair at length and getting him some help for his depression. We were sorting things out with him clinging on to me telling me he loved me. Then 4 weeks later after we had been walking in the woods with him holding my hand cooking me dinner. He gets a phone call around 6 pm and goes out to the kitchen it went very quiet and I asked him if everything was ok and the look on his face said it all. I said please don’t tell me you have another bombshell for me and he told me he had an ‘emotional connection’ to this girl! I freaked out and he said he loves me but is not “in love” with me. I stormed out of the house in floods of tears. I am now back at the house and he has gone. I’m distraught. I will be financially unstable as he told me to “cut back” we have always been happy no arguments. So this lady 6 weeks has been a massive shock. I have had no contact with him. I’m going through anxiety in the mornings and am really struggling. Please tell me I can get over this!
Melanie Pierluigi on October 28, 2019:
Try your entire life..! I have never gotten over the person I wanted who I wasn't even in a relationship with. It's now been 7 years of no contact whatsoever, and in 7 years, the love and longing has never even slightly faded. I will take it to my grave.
C L Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 14, 2014:
Hi Redmondunmore and thanks for your comment. Yes, keeping your mind active is a great way to help stop obsessing about someone. Activities which require concentration are useful, as these 'force' you to forget...for a short while at least!
Glad to hear that you managed to move forward with your life. Keep having fun!
C L Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 14, 2014:
Thanks for your comment Say Yes to Life. People who are predisposed to obsessive thinking often have low self-esteem. As a consequence of this, they tend to compare themselves unfavorably to others.
Irvin D. Yalom is quoted as saying; "In order to love yourself, you must behave in ways that you admire." Hence, if there are traits the obsessive person admires, in another, then yes, developing those traits should help.
Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on November 14, 2014:
I read in an article long ago that people who believe they are lacking in certain areas obsess over those they wish they could be like. The best way to overcome it is to develop those traits in yourself.
redmondunmore from Florida on September 20, 2014:
What I have done is find something that interest me, a hobby, a class, or even a friend that I can hang out with and have fun. Once you start moving and going and doing things that you like, you soon forget about it to a point where you can move on.